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Creativity: It's Only Human!
by
Melanie Votaw

 

When I was in school, the class I dreaded most was my eighth grade art class. The teacher put down my every attempt at completing an assignment. I simply couldn’t produce art the way she wanted it. Luckily for me, I had already proven myself in other creative areas besides the visual arts – such as writing and dance. Yet, that art teacher was successful in convincing me that I had no talent whatsoever for painting, drawing, or anything remotely related to them. Imagine my surprise when years later, I published my nature photography and became – of all things – a volunteer art teacher!

Unfortunately, my story is all too familiar to so many of the people who come through my workshops and practice. Even more unfortunately, the vast majority of people were so discouraged in childhood that they cut off the creative impulse in most every area of their lives. Their teachers, parents, or classmates convinced them they had no talent, and so, they gave up. The pain of failure was simply too great.

Taking risks is the hallmark of great art, so why do we become so locked into our idea of what is acceptable? When we see finished art that we admire, we tend to forget that most great works of art are the result of years of work, and all writers rewrite and rewrite until they're blue in the face. Besides that, few works of art become universally recognized as great. Most artists experience widely divergent opinions about the quality of their work. There is no definitive opinion about what is good and what isn’t!

More importantly, why have we forgotten that creativity is an experience, not a result? Let’s consider why we express creativity in the first place. Is it to become the next Picasso or Baryshnikov? Or is it for enjoyment and pleasure? Even Picasso and Baryshnikov didn't set out in the beginning to be “Picasso” and “Baryshnikov!” Picasso began to paint, and Baryshnikov began to dance because they loved doing it! And, there is only one Picasso and only one Baryshnikov. But, there is also only one YOU!

Making art is not just for professionals! To be creative is to be human. Everything we have at our disposal in the modern world – from our computers to our post-its – are the result of someone’s creative expression and willingness to take a risk. Even so, for creativity to flower and feel free of encumbrance, it needs to be about the joyful moments spent creating, not just about what we have to show for those moments.

In order to break loose from these chains of self-doubt, we must be willing to let go of all preconceived ideas of what something “should” be, “should” look like, “should” sound like. We even need to let go of the need for our creative expression to be “good” – whatever that means.

To that end, here’s what I suggest. Choose some creative outlet that you find fun to do or believe you would have fun doing… not just to “have done.” In other words, pick something that sounds fun even if you trash your work afterward. Then, start projects, and DON'T FINISH them. That's right. You heard me. Don't finish them! This may make you crazy at first, but it's a great way to break the habit of judging your finished product too harshly and too quickly. If, on the other hand, your habit is to judge yourself for NOT finishing projects, then by all means, finish!

Whatever pattern you need to break, try to make it about the pleasure and not about the outcome. All the innovation and spark is sapped from creative flow when you demand everything you make be great. But, if you MUST stay somewhat connected to the result, bear in mind that even your worst efforts could reap surprising results! A very successful songwriter once told me that she wrote an absolutely terrible song, only to find that the melody and a couple of lines from it sparked a song that eventually won awards.

Therefore, I would urge you to curb your perfectionism (NOT your enthusiasm!) Perfectionism is the leading killer of artistic expression (and I don’t need a medical study to tell me that.) Relax a little, and bring back your childlike nature when you create. Fingerpaint. Dance silly on purpose. Find a toddler to make art with, and learn from his or her example. Children instinctively know how to give over to the joy of art-making – until someone teaches them otherwise! Let your creation be whatever it wants to be. See if it can lead you rather than the other way around. Let your unconscious come through, and let the expression of your Self be beautiful regardless of how it compares to anything else. After all, it's yours, and no one but you could create it!

 

_____________________

 

Melanie Votaw is a Hypnotherapist and Transformational Counselor certified by Dick Sutphen and in private practice in New York since 1988. She has taught the "Discovering Your Life Purpose" course for the Learning Annex and the Seminar Center in New York and California, as well as The Creative Impulse workshop and the Creating the Life You Want course. Her meditation CD's (including one titled "The Creative Impulse") are available on her website or from CDBaby.com, Byregion.net, and Tower Records' website.

Melanie has appeared on Manhattan Neighborhood Network's Woman of the Week television program and Sony Worldwide Radio Network's radio program, "The Edge of Reality." She has lectured on creativity for the Mensa Society in Los Angeles and at several New Life Expos.

The author of five books, Melanie is an extensively published poet, fiction writer, nature photographer, actress, singer, and dancer. For more information, see her websites at: http://www.MelanieVotaw.com, http://www.VotawPhotography.com, and http://www.RuletheWord.com.

 

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